Sunday, October 22, 2006

A Saturday morning trip downtown

Today started off as planned. I woke up early and set off with my friend Shawna, a published photographer, to meet up with another friend who was meeting us outside the CBC building. We would be attending Go, a Saturday morning radio show.

We decided to take Yonge Street since it was early morning and Shawna, hardened by the streets of Hamilton, was ready to deal with whatever traffic we might face. All was going bikingly (that’s kinda like swimmingly but even better). We were riding and chatting during the times traffic was low, then going single file when we saw a pack of cars arriving from behind.

At the traffic light at Yonge and Davisville, the light turned green and a guy pulled up behind us and started honking. We were already single file at this point and in the right half of the lane. This was our first time seeing him. The guy pulled up beside me and started honking and was trying to yell at me through his windows. He was right beside me, close enough for me to knock on his window with my gloved hand, so I did. He then pulls ahead a few feet and swerves to the right. I brake and avoid him hitting me. He stops on the side of the road. I pull up on his left. He winds down both his windows. Yes, both his windows, as if he wanted to include both me and Shawna in the discussion.

The first thing he says (screams) is “You’re a f---ing goof!” “You ride your f---ing bike on road.” “You’re a f---ing goof!” “You’re on the f---ing street and road and street.” I made a few comments like “Excuse me sir, but do you mind if I ask how it is possible that you passed your driver’s license test without knowing that cyclists are required to ride on the road?” Ok, my comment involved a little less politeness and a few more profanities, but you can understand after he swerved his car at me. He responded with “You’re a f---ing goof!” I found it hard to believe this was happening, probably just like you are right now. I'm not a psychiatrist, but "mentally stable" is not a label that would be applied to this guy. I told him I would call the police. He said “go ahead”. After a little more of being called a goof, I told him to think about his children (he had car seats in the back) just before he drove off. Admittedly, I didn’t give him much context as to how he should think about his children, but things were a little too heated to connect all the dots for him.

Shawna was waiting calmly behind the whole time, and told me his license plate after he drove away. I called the police. I assume they didn't stop him because they didn’t phone me back.

We continued south down Yonge. Things were going bikingly again. We turned right on Bloor (which, for some strange reason, doesn’t have a bike lane), then turned south on Bay Street. Bay Street was empty so we rode comfortably and talked the whole way down.

After passing Dundas Street, Shawna says “This is a bumpy road.” The next thing I know, I’m moving forward but my bike is no longer pressing up underneath me. Instead, it’s lying on its side just below me, flying through the air at the same speed as me. I hit the asphalt on my right knee and left hand, then stood up shocked that I wasn’t hurting.

I got a bump just below the knee and a small scrape on my hand. There was almost no blood, thanks to the fact I was wearing gloves and long pants. Actually, my clothes weren’t even torn.

Shawna pointed out a pot-hole that I most likely hit. There were quite a few large gashes in the asphalt. Somehow I didn’t notice it beforehand. I’ll take it as a very gently taught lesson to ride carefully in the future.

The chain broke off my bike, my seat got knocked out of alignment, and the wheels need to be trued again. Other than the wheels, this was all easily fixed at a bike shop after the show was over.

I don’t know how I got off so well.

We left the bike shop, and Shawna and I were able to ride around the city for a few more hours. We made a quick visit to Bike Pirates, an "anarchist, non-profit, do-it-yourself bike repair construction space". Apparently, they’re working on a web site. (email: bikepirates@resist.ca) In the meantime, here's a photo.


The ride finished off well with lots of eating as we slowly worked our way back north.

The high points of the day more than made up for the two brief low points. (That might not be obvious from the number of words I used here for the low points, but you know how these media outlets work.)

Darren J 10/22/2006 01:26:00 AM

8 Comments:

Some people really flip out sometimes. Fortunately it doesn't happen to often, at least south of Bloor, which is where I do most of my riding.

At rush hour, Bay Street can be the worst street in the city to take: jammed, and no room to scoot around the jam.
Hey Darren. I'm glad to hear you are no worse for the wear after the crash. Those kind of incidents are scary.

I've has so many confrontations with drivers over the last four weeks, that I've simply stopped writing about them. I've come to the conclusion that arguing or trying to talk sense with these people isn't going to get me very far. I do my best to ignore them and continue on my way. I haven't had anybody swerve over on me though.
Hi Darren:

Glad to hear that you and your bike got off fairly lightly. We're headed into slippery road season now, what with all the wet leaves, and potentially snow this week (there I said it).
I have also been run off the road by a motorist, and then yelled at beligerently for my offence (biking in the 'middle of the god-damned road.' With my experience however, this auto-enthusiast (soup can exhaust, body kit, ect) decided to follow me down a few more streets, honking his horn and yelling out his window (I guess I needed to be taught a lesson).

I called the cops- 911 in fact, and asked for assistance as I was being harrassed by a driver and thought there was a potential he would soon try to hurt me. The dispatcher's response "Do you REALLY want us to send someone out? Is this REALLY a priority? Don't you think you can calmly work things out on your own?"

Sometimes it feels as though this disgrunteled behavior is not only ignored, but heven condoned by the authorities.
Glad you're okay, Darren, you goof. :)
Thanks guys.

I had a feeling Bay Street would be hairy on a weekday. I try to cut through U of T if I'm heading anywhere over that way.

Andrew, What's going on in York Region? The driving practices I see are horrendous.

Joe, that's a trigger word for me now. I almost lost it when I read that. (Breathe.)

Each time I've phoned the cops, the person on the phone has been very understanding and talked as if there was a chance they would do something about it. Both times, I said that the person was probably guilty of reckless driving, since they risked hurting me very intentionally. There's probably a better legal term for that.

Upon reflection, I've realized that the maniac who exploded on me on Saturday morning was in fact an angel sent by a higher power to raise my adrenaline levels to the point I could respond to having my bicycle collapse out from under me. Maybe I will write him a thank you letter.
I find people's chain of thoughts interesting... I'd have liked to have been in the passenger seat beside the guy and seen his brain whirl from first seeing you to the decision to cut you off. I wonder if white rabies foam came out of his mouth.
I wish the police would at least call this guy, so that even if he is not charged there is some realization in his brain that his behaviour is completely unacceptable.

Sorry about your pothole accident, hope you are feeling okay. Is there some way to make a claim against the city for the cost of your bike repairs? Because the lack of road maintenance is really making things dangerous out there!

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